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MAS defers widebody order plans

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has put longstanding plans for a sizeable widebody aircraft order on hold amid the global economic uncertainty.

MAS has been looking at orders for dozens of new aircraft in the 150- to 200-seat size category for some time and originally planned to make a decision by the middle of this year, although this was later pushed back to the end of this year.

Managing director Idris Jala said on the sidelines of the Routes event in Kuala Lumpur that the order plan is now being deferred further.

"We are still looking very intensely at the widebodies but it is clear that we will delay the process to look at what is happening in the market," he said.

"We are not in a hurry to do that. We are re-examining what to do with the long-haul and the wise thing to do is not to be in a hurry."

MAS has been carrying out a wide-ranging restructuring since Idris joined nearly three years ago and it has since placed orders for ATR turboprop aircraft for two subsidiary carriers as well as Boeing 737-800s for its own domestic and short-haul international operations.

It has 35 737-800s on firm order as well as 20 options and deliveries are due to begin in September 2010. Idris says the 35 firm-ordered aircraft will all be for replacement purposes as it phases out ageing 737-400s, and a decision on options will depend on the state of the air transport market over the next few years, as if it decides it needs additional aircraft it may be able to get them from other carriers' orderbooks.

"The 35 on order are exactly enough to replace the existing aircraft that we are retiring. In a sense there is no additional capacity," he said.

"The additional capacity is the 20 options. We expect in the next year or so that the market will tank", resulting in overcapacity and order cancellations that may allow it to "pick up aircraft relatively cheap".

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